Staff Writer (Updated: 5/6/2016):
The Cold War spanned from the late 1940s into the late 1980s and covered a tension-filled portion of modern world history. The line was essentially drawn between the West - led by the United States and her European allies - and the East - headed by the Soviet Empire born from the upheaval of World War 1. The Soviet Union became a powerful military force during World War 2 thanks largely in part to Adolf Hitler's decision to invade the East, his forces finally being stalled by stretched supply lines and the Russian Winter within view of Moscow proper. The Soviet response was massive and brutal as manpower and machine were relocated through all manner of methods, eventually driving the German invaders back into Germany to which then the capital of Berlin was eventually claimed by the Soviet Army through bloody street-to-street fighting.
The events of World War 2 revealed a redesigned Europe where new nations rose and old ones fell - many guided under various spheres of influence. The differences in ideology politics between East and West would eventually come to a head and, as it was appropriately believed that, the next large-scale war would be witnessed across Europe once again, this time involving thousands of modernized tanks and armored vehicles coupled with massive artillery barrages and air support. Additionally, nuclear weapons would come into play - both on the large scale and on the smaller, portable scale.
As such, both sides began development of dedicated anti-armor measures - heavily-armored and armed tanks, anti-tank missiles, field guns and aircraft. For the latter requirement, the Americans turned to Fairchild Republic which ended up producing the excellent A-10 Thunderbolt II, a twin-engined, jet-powered aircraft armed with a massive 30mm nose-mounted Gatling gun designed specifically to defeat Soviet armor from above. Additionally, the straight-winged nature of the vehicle promoted multiple weapon stations for fitting air-to-surface, armor-defeating guided missiles, rocket pods and drop bombs. The A-10 was a very well-armed machine and extensively armored for the low-level attack role with engines mounted in individual nacelles high above the fuselage to increase survivability. First flight was on May 10th, 1972 to which introduction of the system was finally granted in March of 1977. The United States Air Force became the primary (and sole) handler of the machine.
The Soviet response was similar in scope - a largely conventional, straight-winged design to be powered by turbojet engines and capable of delivering a broad array of munitions. Design was charged to the Sukhoi concern which had already totaled decades of experience in developing viable jet-powered aircraft for the Soviet Air Force (the other well-known Soviet concern being Mikoyan). The new requirement was written for an armored, ground-attack-minded aircraft intended to support ground forces in a combined arms initiative - particularly where enemy armor was in play. Key to the design would be its field survivability and weapons delivery while all other qualities could be deemed somewhat secondary in nature (primarily speed and agility).